Tennessee football: Vols at Gators could likely miss out on CBS again

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07: An 'SEC' logo is seen on an end zone pylon before the Missouri Tigers take on the Auburn Tigers during the SEC Championship Game at Georgia Dome on December 7, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07: An 'SEC' logo is seen on an end zone pylon before the Missouri Tigers take on the Auburn Tigers during the SEC Championship Game at Georgia Dome on December 7, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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Tennessee football didn’t play the Florida Gators on CBS in 2018 for the second time in 23 years. The same thing could happen for the Volunteers in 2019.

It just doesn’t feel right when Tennessee football doesn’t play the Florida Gators on CBS. After all, they made a habit of doing that beginning in 1996, and it lasted all the way until 2011. The streak broke in 2012.

However, the game returned to CBS in 2013 and lasted through 2017. Only for the second time in the last 23 games, though, it was off the network again in 2018, and that game turned into a disaster for the Vols.

Don’t expect things to go back to normal this year, though. CBS’s announced schedule of SEC games, which was released Wednesday, showed that there is a double-header scheduled on Sept. 21, when the Vols play the Gators. That made UT fans somewhat excited about the chance of the game returning to where it belongs.

Here’s the problem: there are already two objectively better games that day by any standard. One is the Auburn Tigers at the Texas A&M Aggies. We know what Auburn is under Gus Malzahn, but the potential for Texas A&M its second year under Jimbo Fisher is through the roof.

What about the other game? Well, this is where Tennessee football gets an unfair break if it wants to return to CBS. The Georgia Bulldogs take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. If that game were in South Bend, then Tennessee-Florida would almost certainly be back on CBS. But it’s in Athens, so CBS gets the right to the game. And yes, they’re going to televise that one.

The 2017 Georgia-Notre Dame game had an epic finish. It features two teams who have been top 10 regulars the past few years, and they each have made one College Football Playoff appearance over the last two years. There’s no way you avoid that.

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So Tennessee football’s only chance to face Florida on CBS is to beat out Auburn-Texas A&M. And let’s be honest, would you make that call if you were a CBS executive? Sure, there’s more history behind Tennessee-Florida.

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But the Gators have won 13 of the last 14, and they blew out the Vols in Knoxville last year. Sure, UT is expected to make major strides its second year under Jeremy Pruitt. But Dan Mullen runs a system that he designed with Urban Meyer, and both coaches have a track record of their teams taking major strides too.

So if Florida and Tennessee both take major strides, there’s no reason to believe this game will be any closer given the fact that it’s in Gainesville. Now, that may not be the case. Football is not a science like that. But if you pick games, you still have to analyze things like that ahead of time.

And ahead of time, Auburn-Texas A&M is a better game. Heck, even after that, the Kentucky Wildcats at Mississippi State Bulldogs could compete with Tennessee football. Kentucky trying to build off what Mark Stoops did in 2018 and Mississippi State in its second year under Joe Moorhead makes for a very intriguing storyline.

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Simply put, it’s actually a hard sell for the Vols and Gators to be on CBS, even with the doubleheader. That just gives them an outside chance, but Georgia-Notre Dame is certain to be the main game on CBS. So they have an uphill climb to be the best pick of the other three games we mentioned.